Crowning Winners for Every Major 2013 MLB Award in the First Half
Even though we are still two weeks away from the All-Star break, Major League Baseball teams have played roughly half of their schedule. With approximately 81 games done, it is time to look back at what we have seen and hand out mid-season awards.
It's a good thing that we still have half of the season to go, because right now there are a lot of races that are so ridiculously close you can make a case for a handful of players and not necessarily be wrong.
The parameters of the awards are simply that we are giving them to players based on what has happened from opening day through June 26. This is not meant to be a prediction of who will win the award at the end of the year.
Things are going to change between now and the end of September, and we will update award winners when we get there. This is just a look back at the season to date.
With that in mind, here are the mid-season award winners in MLB as we see it.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
American League Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
There are two ways to look at the Comeback Player of the Year Award: Bouncing back from a bad season or returning to form after an injury-plagued year. I prefer to go with the latter, which is why someone like Derek Holland didn't get more consideration here.
Not that it would matter, because Evan Longoria has been the best all-around third baseman in baseball so far this year and a legitimate MVP candidate—not just the overwhelming favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.
Longoria has already played in more games this year (79) than he did in 2012 (74). With him healthy and back to full strength, the numbers reflect just how great the 27-year-old can be with no restrictions and limitations.
He is hitting .299/.368/.551 with 17 home runs, 47 RBI, 52 runs scored and playing a Gold Glove-caliber third base with five defensive runs saved and an Ultimate Zone Rating of 8.5. If it weren't for that guy in Detroit, Longoria would be getting a lot more attention as the best third baseman in the American League.
Apologies to: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista
National League Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
It is much easier to write about Troy Tulowitzki winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award even though he is injured since we are, again, merely judging this based on midseason.
Despite playing in just 61 games this season, which is actually 14 more than he played in last year, Tulowitzki has a strong argument as the National League MVP. He is tied for second in wins above replacement at 3.9 and is hitting a ridiculous .347/.413/.635 with 16 home runs and a weighted on base average of .441, best in the NL.
What's scary about Tulo's performance is the five position players in the NL around him have also played in at least 11 more games this year than he has.
And in case you think Tulowitzki's season is all Coors Field-related, he is hitting .302/.361/.613 with eight home runs in 28 games on the road. He is a great player, regardless of what stadium he is in.
Apologies to: Domonic Brown
American League Manager of the Year
Winner: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
While it is easy to simply give the Manager of the Year Award to the skipper with the best record, or a surprise team that overachieves based on preseason expectations, John Farrell is the best choice for a lot of other reasons.
Even though I wouldn't classify him as a great tactical manager, there are very few of them in the game today, and Farrell is certainly not bad in that regard. But there are also a lot more things a manager does that should be taken into account.
For instance, we saw last year with Bobby Valentine how volatile and toxic the Red Sox appeared to be. Farrell, even though he has a history with the team as a pitching coach under Terry Francona, could have fallen apart under the circumstances.
Instead, thanks to key players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz staying healthy, Farrell appears to have been the best man for this job. They have the best record in the American League and are not creating any controversy at all.
It is a testament to the job Farrell has done, no doubt thanks in large part to existing relationships with key players, the Red Sox are quietly (at least by their standards) putting together such a fantastic season.
Apologies to: Buck Showalter, Terry Francona
National League Manager of the Year
Winner: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
I can get this out of the way early: Clint Hurdle isn't a good game manager. He isn't a good strategist and can hurt his team more than help.
That said, going back to what we talked about with Farrell (who is a better tactical manager), there is something to the notion of a manager as one who can find a way to relate to his players and get the most out of them.
If I were to tell you, on Opening Day, that on June 27 the Pirates would be tied with St. Louis atop the NL Central and had the best record in Major League Baseball, would you honestly believe me?
It also helps Hurdle's case that this is a very weak year in the NL, so even though some managers are better tactically than he is, they aren't getting the most out of the talent they have. Give the players the credit they deserve for this run, but Hurdle should be rewarded for part of it.
Apologies to: Bud Black, Mike Matheny
American League Rookie of the Year
Winner: Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers
Remember last year's American League rookie class, with Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Matt Moore and Jarrod Parker at the top?
This year's crop is not going to approach that. In fact, it probably shouldn't even be allowed to share the award with that group. But since someone has to win it, we are going to give it to the player who is actually in the lineup regularly and performing.
Leonys Martin has quietly had a solid rookie season, probably because he has played 32 games total the previous two years that you forget he still has rookie eligibility. He is hitting .288/.339/.452 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases in 67 games.
That last part about games played is important, as there have been rookies who have had success (like Boston's Jose Iglesias), but they just haven't played enough to warrant strong consideration. Iglesias has only played in 35 games—is that more valuable than someone who has played 32 more games?
On the pitching side, Martin's teammates, Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch, started strong but have really faded over the last five weeks. Oakland's Sean Doolittle, Minnesota's Casey Fien and Cleveland's Cody Allen have pitched well, but it is hard for a reliever to break into a category because they only impact the game one inning at a time.
Apologies to: Conor Gillaspie, Nick Tepesch
National League Rookie of the Year
Winner: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
Going in, I thought the race for National League Rookie of the Year would be a runaway for Shelby Miller, who has been masterful for the St. Louis Cardinals through the first half of the year. But it's wound up being much closer, with Marcell Ozuna and Jose Fernandez as strong contenders.
Since I know it will be brought up, Yasiel Puig doesn't have enough games or at-bats under his belt to break into the field just yet. Obviously, if he stays anywhere near this pace through the end of the year, he will lap the field en route to winning the award.
As far as Miller goes, even though Matt Harvey (not rookie eligible) gets all the attention as the best young pitcher in baseball, the St. Louis right-hander stacks up very well against the Mets star. The two are tied with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, with Harvey holding a slight edge in ERA (2.05 to 2.35) and ERA+ (177 to 157).
Miller also leads all rookies with a WAR of 2.3. His xFIP of 3.14 is half a run better than Los Angeles' Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.64). We caught a small glimpse of what the 22-year-old was capable of at the end of 2012, but now we are seeing just how great he can be.
Apologies to: Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez
American League Cy Young Award
Winner: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Just looking at all of the candidates not even included in the "Apologies to" section, like Clay Buchholz, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander, you can see just how great the pitching in the American League is right now.
While the other top candidates, including Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish and Anibal Sanchez, all have compelling arguments to be made, when you put all the pieces together for the Cy Young Award, no one completes the picture better than Felix Hernandez.
One of the most underrated stats when it comes to being a true No. 1 starter is innings pitched. Hernandez has proven himself to be a horse, and this year is no exception. He leads the league with 116.2 innings this season.
King Felix is third in ERA (2.70), behind his teammate Hisashi Iwakuma (2.26), and Buchholz (1.71). But keep in mind that Hernandez has also thrown 32.1 more innings than Buchholz. He also holds a slight edge over Anibal Sanchez in xFIP (2.50 to 2.56) and he trails only Darvish in strikeouts.
As far as competition goes, Hernandez has made seven starts against teams that rank in the top 10 in all of baseball in runs scored. He has been regarded as one of the best pitchers in baseball for a long time, but with so many new faces to watch, he seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.
It is time to start paying attention again.
Apologies to: Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer
National League Cy Young Award
Winner: Matt Harvey, New York Mets
What an incredible six-horse race we have brewing in the National League for the Cy Young Award, with Matt Harvey, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, Patrick Corbin, Cliff Lee and Shelby Miller all very strong contenders.
You are really splitting hairs with all of them, but as far as everything that a pitcher has direct control over (line drives, home runs, walks, strikeouts), you would be hard pressed to keep Harvey out of the top spot in those categories.
Harvey ranks fifth in the league in innings pitched (110.0), first in ERA (2.05), strikeouts (121), WHIP (0.882) and hits allowed per nine innings (6.0). He also holds a slim lead over Wainwright in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) at 2.00 vs. 2.01 and is second to the Cardinals starter in xFIP (2.66 vs. 2.72).
Again, it is hard to get a clear separation from any of these terrific pitchers. Harvey gets the most attention because he pitches in New York, though it also doesn't hurt that he has struck out at least six hitters in 14 of his 16 starts and has reached double digits in Ks four times.
Apologies To: Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, Shelby Miller
American League Most Valuable Player
Winner: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
The more things change, the more they stay the same. After spending most of the fall months last year debating Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP last year, there is no question about Cabrera being the MVP this year.
And the amazing thing is there are a lot of players having fantastic years who would belong in the discussion. But when you get right down to it, Cabrera trumps them all right now.
The Tigers third baseman leads all of baseball with a .370 average, .460 on-base percentage, 47 walks, 1.117 OPS, 111 hits and 196 OPS+. He also ranks second with 22 home runs, 197 total bases and a .657 slugging percentage. His WAR of 5.1 is also the best in baseball, comfortably ahead of Evan Longoria and Mike Trout (4.3).
Even with his defensive limitations, which have gotten notably worse this year compared to where they were even last year (when he was a bad defensive third baseman), the offense Cabrera provides is above and beyond what anyone else is doing right now, and he is the AL midseason MVP.
Baltimore's Chris Davis, who is generating a lot of buzz with 28 home runs and .330 average, is 56 points behind Cabrera in on-base percentage. Cabrera also holds an edge in weighted on base average wOBA (.468 to .458). This isn't really that much of a race right now.
Apologies to: Evan Longoria, Chris Davis, Mike Trout, Manny Machado
National League Most Valuable Player
Winner: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
This was the one category that caused the most issue, because there are around 10 players who are in the mix, not to mention the fact that of this particular group, Tulowitzki has played the fewest games (61) due to an injury.
But in the games he did play, which works out to around 77 percent of the team's total thus far, no one had a greater impact than the Rockies shortstop. He added more value than anyone else in the National League and is a worthy MVP at the halfway point.
Starting with his offensive numbers, which for a shortstop are ridiculous, Tulowitzki is hitting .347/.413/.635 with 16 home runs. He ranks in the top three among qualified players in the NL in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Tulowitzki also holds a wide edge in wOBA at .441 (teammate Michael Cuddyer is second at .420), leads Joey Votto in weight runs created plus (173 vs. 162), and his isolated power is second to Carlos Gonzalez (.311 vs. .288).
Then you factor in Tulowitzki's added value on defense, including five defensive runs saved and a UZR of 6.3. That looks even better when you consider that Colorado's pitching staff is last in the National League in strikeouts, meaning the defense is asked to do a lot of work.
As I have stated throughout, playing time is a huge factor in determining who gets awards at season's end. Tulowitzki's injury will likely hamper his ability to be an MVP candidate at the end of the year, but for right now, he has been the MVP in the National League.
Apologies to: Carlos Gomez, Adam Wainwright, Matt Harvey, David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez